30.09.2010 | Minutes and reports | Nuclear Safety

Safety Requirements Governing the Final Disposal of Heat-Generating Radioactive Waste

Radioactive waste may emit radiation for millions of years. For that reason, it must be safely disposed of. In Germany, it is intended to dispose of radioactive waste in deep geological formations. Waste disposal in the former research mine Asse ended in 1978 and in the final repository for radioactive waste Morsleben (ERAM) in September 1998. Plan-approval procedures for the decommissioning of these facilities are under way. The abandoned Konrad mine in Salzgitter was licensed as a final repository for radioactive waste with negligible heat generation in May 2002. The refitting of this mine into a repository started in May 2007. Waste can be disposed of in this repository estimated from 2014.

The exploration of the salt dome at Gorleben for its suitability as final repository for all types of radioactive waste was interrupted on 1 October 2000. In an agreement with the utility companies, a moratorium of up to 10 years was adopted. It has been planned to dispose of all kinds of waste in this salt dome, in particular heat-generating waste.

In July 2009 BMU published safety requirements governing the disposal of heat-generating waste. At the request of the Federal States (Länder) BMU will discuss these requirements with the Federal States before setting them into force for their licensing authorities. A presentation of a draft of these requirements was given in November 2008 in the course of an International Symposium in Berlin dealing with disposal. This draft was subsequently scrutinized with stakeholders and experts.

These Safety Requirements will set out the safety standards that a repository site for heat-generating radioactive waste in deep geological formations must demonstrably observe in order to comply with atomic energy legislation. They will apply to all sites where the Federal Government, in its capacity as the body responsible for the construction of facilities for the final disposal of radioactive waste, has opted for a plan approval procedure.

This document outlines the requirements that must be observed during selection of a repository site if compliance with these requirements can still be influenced after site selection is complete, within the context of optimization.

As long as there is no operational final repository, radioactive waste has to be put into interim storage. Spent fuel for example, is stored in interim storage facilities in close proximity to the nuclear power stations. If it is necessary to compare potential sites prior to the decision for a certain site is a question, which must be clarified within the Federal Government.